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Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Getting to Know Carolyn Howard Johnson
Topic: Author Interview

Carolyn Howard Johnson the person:  

 1.  What three words do you think describe you as a human being?

Spiritual. Occasionally funny, but only occasionally. Patient to a fault.


 2.  How do you think others would describe you?


Probably none of those words would occur to them.


 3.  Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.

Traveling. I've been--often alone--to all the countries in Europe except Lichtenstein, Egypt, Kenya, most of the South America countries, the Galapagos (Ecuador), almost every island in the Caribbean (not Cuba), Canada, Russia, China and lots more.


 4.  Do you have any pets?  If so, introduce us to them.


I adore dogs. I've had three Great Danes, a yellow lab, a few mixes. My new dog is Malibu--a gunmetal grey one that the breeders call blue. All have been rescue dogs.


 5.  What is your most precious memory?


Have to pick one, huh. The birth of my daughter. She had a huge head (that makes the occasion very, very memorable) and long, long fingers. I knew she was mine. Ha!


 6.  What is your most embarrassing memory?


Losing my frilly petticoat at a high school sock hop. I just stepped out of the ruffles and kept dancing. Didn't even go back to lost and found to retrieve the tulle and satin concoction.


 7.  If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing with your life?


I know because I let other things interfere with that for years. I'd still be operating a chain of gift stores.


 8.  In two paragraphs or less write your obituary.


My obituary will be the things my friends write on the outside of a cardboard casket, high school yearbook style. Roses are red . . . kinds of things. Yes, there is such a thing as a cardboard casket. The music will be the dirges from the Neville Brothers (they are really funny, if there is anyone who doesn't know them) and everyone will eat Bananas Foster after they've written their piece.


 Carolyn Howard Johnson the writer:


 9.   Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a “real” writer?


Real writer? When I knew that I needed something more than straight journalism


10.  What is going on with your writing these days?


Tons. One exciting, quirky thing that happened just today: Amazon told me that my first short The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need to Sell Your Book in Twenty Minutes or Less. for only 49 cents. I'm most excited because it will give writers what they need to write the thing that they hate most doing. And they won't have to be miserable twice--once handing over a chunk of money for a whole book before they have to buckle down and write the darned thing. People can find it by going to and entering my name or the title of the Short.

11.  What are your future goals for your writing?


I want to finish a memoir on cooking--how I don't cook. And a novel that's been moldering in a drawer for two years. And another how-to book for the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers.


12.  Can you describe a typical writing day for you?


At the computer most of the day. With the exception of movies. I review movies for my hometown newspaper. Lots of that time includes promotion time, though.


13.  Why do you write?


Very simply, to live.


14.  What writer most inspires you?  Why?


The littlest things. Words. Slants on words. Colors.


15.  How do you define your writing?


It covers the waterfront. I've written in many genres, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, journalism. I've published about every way, too. Traditionally. Subsidy. Self-published. E-books. Chapbooks. Offset. Digitally. You name it.


16.  In one sentence—what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years?


I just want them to still be reading one piece of my work. Hopefully something literary rather than my how-tos. And that's because I think those works have more potential for doing something beneficial for the world.


 Carolyn Howard Johnson the details: 

17.  Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website?  Blog?

Website--yes, I do it myself. I can't stand waiting for others to fix things. That's both good and bad.  It's

My blogs:

A review-focused blog,

A book fair-focused blog,

Writing-focused blog that covers everything from rants about Oprah to freedom of speech,

An editing-focused blog (yes, I am the Frugal Editor),


18.  Is there a place where readers can reach you?


My e-mail box is always open. They'll also find ways to connect--more than enough!--on my website,


19.  Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?


You, know, I'd rather they go and snoof around my website. I have so many and there is such a variety. Those interested in books and audios and videos to help them with their writing should start at Those interested in novels, short stories, poetry, should start with a section of the site,


20.  For new readers—what can they expect when they read your book(s)?


A voice. Often a loud one. Never tough to read. Often like talking over a back fence. Even my how-to books don't read like texts.


 In conclusion: 

 21.  Take as much space as necessary to speak to our readers—what would you like them to know about you and your writing?

Instead, I'm going to include a story how I got here. 


 Beating Time at Its Own Game

Life Begins At Sixty


Sometimes the big barriers in life aren’t abject poverty, dreaded disease or death.  Sometimes it’s the subtle ones set upon us by time and place.  The ones that creep up silently on padded feet and, if we sense them at all, we choose not to turn and face them.

The decade of the 50s was a time when these kinds of barriers faced those with dark skin, those who lived in closed religious communities, and those who were female.


When I applied for a job as a writer at Hearst Corporation in New York in 1961 I was required to take a typing test.  I was piqued because I wasn’t applying for the typing-pool, I was applying for a post as an editorial assistant. 


I was told, “No typing test, no interview.”  I took the test and was offered a job in the ranks of those who could do 70 in a minute.  I had to insist upon the interview I had been promised. I was only twenty and had no real skills in assertiveness.  I am amazed I had the wherewithal to do that. 


Something similar was at work when I married and had children. I happily left my writing to accommodate my husband’s career and the life the winds of the times presented to me. That there was a time when we didn’t know we had choices is not fiction.


I had always wanted to write the next “Gone with the Wind” only about Utah instead of about the South. I had a plan that was, itself, gone with the wind.


It was the 1950s and women in that time, and especially in that place, had a notion of who they should be, could be and, mostly, they got it from those around them because many of them couldn’t see the difference from society’s expectations and their own.


“You can’t be a nurse,” my mother said.  “Your ankles aren’t sturdy enough.” I also was told I couldn’t be a doctor because that wasn’t a woman’s vocation. The choice left to me was to be a teacher. My dream to write became a victim of the status quo.


Instead of following my star I searched for replacements. My husband and I built a business. For forty years I didn’t write and, during that time women become more aware. The equipment, gears and pulleys were in place for a different view on life. In midlife I became aware that there was an empty hole where my children had been but also that the hole was vaster than the space vacated by them. I knew I not only would be able to write, I would need to write.


Then I read that, if those who live until they are fifty in these times may very likely see their hundredth year. That meant that I might have another entire lifetime before me--plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. In fact, it’s my belief that women in their 50s might have more time for their second life because they won’t have to spend the first twenty years preparing for adulthood.

That was it. I started writing This is the Place.  I had to relearn old skills and brush up on new, and I am proud that I did it.  I’m glad that I waited until I was sixty. Forty years of experience gave it a dimension it would not have had if I had written it when I was young.. That first novel has expanded into four books inclding a new book of poetry, Tracings and I am now working on one called Best Book Forward: How to Edit for a Spotless First Impression. I like that I am doing something for other women and for other writers.


I also like being proof that a new life can start late—or that it is never too late to revive a dream.

 (Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s novel, This Is The Place, is set in Salt Lake City inthe 50s and has won eight awards. The interest in that city because of the Winter Olympics, the Elizabeth Smart case and along with a Mormon running for US President has fostered a  renewed interest in it.  You can read the first chapter free by e-mailing: or go to All of her books are award-winners.)

Posted by joyceanthony at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007 1:53 AM EST
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Wednesday, 14 November 2007 - 10:10 PM EST

Name: "Carolyn Howard-Johnson"
Home Page:

What a lovely interview, Joyce. You have only yourself to blame for that, though. (-:  You write questions that go above and beyond what so many interviewers do. Thank you. I wish you the best for your blog, for all your writing.



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